Panama, the southernmost country in Central America actually runs from west to east and because of its peculiar S shape it is the only place on the planet where you can travel east to the Pacific Ocean and west to the Atlantic. This country is a veritable jungle where everything grows anywhere. At the far eastern end of this narrow isthmus lies the Parque Nacional Darien, a wilderness with impassable mountains and impenetrable jungles so thick that there are absolutely no roads. It is the only place from the Arctic Circle in Alaska to the Southern tip of South America at Tierra del Fuego where there is no connection!
We crossed from Costa Rica to Panama in the northwest corner near Bocas Del Toro. It was the rainy season which the marketers have attempted to rebrand the “the green season.” The drive was through one of the lushest environments we have ever seen and as we passed in and out of cloud forests and through numerous bursts of torrential rain the various shades of green enveloped us. The road rolled up and down, around steep corners, in and out of cloud forest and the flora threatened to encroach on the roads all along the way. The atmosphere is so thick the feeling is of primordial generation, deep, rich, green!
With the town of Volcan as a rather unremarkable base we took a day to tour the nearby bucolic towns of Cerro Punto and Guadalupe with their picture perfect fincas (farms) and impeccably maintained fields run right up the mountain sides. Here even the fence posts grow!
Heading east we took another detour down the western side of the Azuero Peninsula which juts south into the Pacific to tour a new development that we had read about. If you’re looking for a remote home site with views of the Pacific and private beaches with great surfing waves this would be a place to check out.
Driving in Panama City is hell on earth, in my opinion. OK, I’m being overly dramatic but at a minimum, it was horrendous. Driving the isthmus eastward on the Pan American Highway produced nervous twitches as we approached the city. Our collective driving memories from the last visit included our defective rental car which stalled on the highway with high speed tailgating vehicles in our rear view mirror. We recalled driving around in endless circles just trying to leave the city for our westward drive. Surely this time would be different with our trusted truck and GPS. It was not to be! GPS is a wonderful tool when it works but during this time of need the routes and blue dot just evaporated leaving us stranded during torrential downpours (it is the “green season” after all) in squirmy neighborhoods in a maize of one way streets leading to nowhere with and urgent need to pee! Well we made it and we’re certain there will be more days during our journey when we wonder what the heck we’re doing and once we find a toilet all will be fine.